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Media Coverage
Plunge Still Makes Waves
September 10, 1997



Wednesday, September 10, 1997
Section: Opinion
Page: A12
Column: Editorials 

THE RICHMOND PLUNGE is due for discussion tonight by the City Council. Will the result be a decision to finally pull the plug on this 71-year-old landmark? City staff has recommended closing the crumbling indoor pool on Sept. 30. For safety reasons, the council should agree. Beyond that, the future of the Plunge is not so clear-cut. 

Councilman Tom Butt raises the question about how far the council can go. Although the city owns the facility probably the oldest building in the city's property inventory Richmond may not have the authority to dispose of it. The state building code may have something to say about that, Butt says. And the issue could go even higher up the bureaucratic ladder to the federal level. 

Point Richmond and the Plunge are on the National Registry of Historic Places. These places enjoy a protected status. Altering a site would encounter bureaucratic hurdles. Demolishing one could be the equivalent of a high dive into a pool of red tape. 

So tonight's council discussion may be limited to accepting the recommendation to close the Plunge at the end of September because of structural deficiencies. There is general agreement on that, even by council members who support a long-term renovation plan. 

Money to fix up the Plunge could come from the $23 million bond sale, which will be put to the voters as Measure H in November. It would not be cheap. 

Butt, whose Interactive Resources company has done work to shore up the structure temporarily, says the last time cost estimates were completed for restoration in 1993, "it came to around $4 million. But construction costs are going up all the time. Our costs are up 20 percent over last year." Based on that trend, the cost of doing over the Plunge at today's prices would probably double the 4-year-old $4 million estimate. 

Is it worth it? Assuming Measure H passes and passage of any bond issues is never a slam dunk the Plunge can count on supporters for a complete overhaul. One of them is Councilwoman Irma Anderson. 

"I think it's valuable to the city of Richmond as well as to surrounding cities," Anderson says. "It's a beautiful place, but it needs to be completely redone." 

Another value is the symbolism the Plunge represents. For generations of people, beginning in 1926, the Plunge has been a noisy, splashy place to exercise and have fun in the water. It created a "there" for Point Richmond, lending an identity, binding the community, creating a sense of continuity. These attributes are not easily dismissed or devalued. 

Pull the plug on the Richmond Plunge for safety. But the old facility, now forlorn and shabby, is still capable of making waves, political and nostalgic around this town.